But just as Bob Monkhouse has been enjoying a new lease of life recently, could ventriloquism update its image for the Nineties? Quite possibly, if tonight's intriguing Distant Voices, Still Lips (8pm C4) is any indication of the shape of things to come.
The programme charts the fortunes of Scarlet Watt, Britain's only West Indian ventriloquist, who together with his other half, a dummy called Max, is in constant demand on the northern comedy circuit. Watt is shown topping the bill at a working men's club in Kent, the performance interspersed with glimpses of his house in Luton where the living room has become a ventriloquist's shrine.
But despite his success, Watt is clearly mindful of the fate of some of his predecessors. "You can't get big-headed in this business," he insists. "You're only as good as the last show. You can go out on a Monday night and storm 'em; Tuesday night you can hear your footsteps as you walk off."